Favorite Books

We all have our favorite books. The ones we treasure, we keep, and we reread over and over again. Different books have different meanings for us. For me, my first historical writers made me salivate for the next one in the series. I cut my teeth on Rosemary Rogers years ago. We all remember Sweet Savage Love. The heroine, Ginny Brandon and the hero, Steve Morgan, left us begging for more. I remember "borrowing" my mother's books and reading them secretly in my room and then putting them back so she wouldn't notice I had taken them. I was hooked. I would go to the library and scour the shelves for more, hiding them in my bookbag so I could read them without my dad calling them "smut novels" and forbidding me to read them.

While looking over the shelves, I discovered other gems – Kathleen Woodiwiss. Ashes in the Wind blew me away and reminded me of Gone With the Wind with its sweeping scope and feel. My favorite Kathleen Woodiwiss novel was Rose in Winter. We feel the plight of Erienne as her father auctions her off to Christopher Seton, and we are enthralled as they learn to love each other. A classic Beauty and the Beast story with a charming twist. Another of my favorite authors at a young age was Johanna Lindsey. If I'm not mistaken, her books made Fabio famous because it was his face we saw on the cover of her books.

Through these authors, I learned to love history more. I became enamored of the finer details of writing a historical novel and knew this was what I wanted to write. My first novel was a contemporary, but soon I found I loved the historical voice and found my niche. So, tell me who you like. Who inspired you to write romance novels? What books did you sneak and read so your parents would not notice?

Job vs. Hobby

When does writing move from being a hobby to being a job? Is it when you receive that first check? Does it truly take until you get that check in your hands to consider what you do every single day a job? Think about it. When you put down your job on the 1040 form – do you list your job as writer? Or do many of you still list your day job because that's where you get your income from? And think about it – for many writers, the number of hours they pour into this "hobby" is often times equal or more than the hours they put into their day job. And yet many of us do not get paid for it. So I ask again, is it a job or is it a hobby?

Let's dissect this "hobby" of yours. You wake up every morning and, before you leave for your day job, you log on to your computer and work on your WIP (that's work in progress for any newbies out there). You head off to your job. If you ride public transportation, you bring your WIP along with you. You pour over the pages either on your computer or printed out versions and edit during the commute to your paying job. Sometimes you even do some actual writing during the journey. Then you tuck the pages away while you are at the paying job and wait until you have a break at work, whether it's a lunch break or it's a brief break, and you hurriedly pull out your WIP and polish it a bit more. You have to because while you were doing your paying job, the voices of your characters were frantically whispering in your ear to do something. Unable to ignore them any longer, you make any necessary changes or jot down notes so you don't forget them. Then you make a note to work on those points later on. The clock strikes five (or whatever time you finish your paying job) and you leave to go home, your head filled with tons of revisions.

On the way home, you do a bit more polishing, note-taking, or actual writing. For those of you who must drive to and from work every day, your brain is working on what to do when you get there. I know, because I am one of you. I drive to and from work every day and cannot help but think about my book during my journey. I miss those days when I could ride on the train and scribble notes on my legal pad while I commuted. But, I transgress. At last you make it home.

If you have children, you are doing the mom/dad thing – taking them to practices, recitals, games, etc. With your trusty computer or notebook by your side, you are working on your book. You have to – you are a writer!!!! Ah, see, how it fits into your life. You look up periodically while your child is playing and watch them. You cannot in good conscience not pay attention to your child, no matter how much your book and its characters are shouting for attention. After all – your real children need you. The book can wait until later. But we forget that our books are like our children too – demanding attention at the most inopportune times. They must be fed. They must be played with. They must be listened to. If you ignore them, they drive you crazy with their voices.

So now you have finished doing the mom/dad thing. You are finally home. The children are fed, maybe doing homework or watching tv and you have some quiet time. But it's not really quiet time. Remember those voices? They are still there, only now they are more insistent and begging for attention. What do you do? You do what any good self-respecting author would do – you pull out the computer or notebook and begin to work on that WIP. Children are tucked into bed, spouse is busy watching tv or snoozing next to you and you have your laptop on your lap and you are writing. Why? Because you are a writer!!! Doing what everyone else calls your "hobby". You work until your eyes can no longer stay open. You work until something else in your life interrupts.

You finish your WIP. What do you do now? You are a writer. This is not just a hobby to you. Oh, you don't get paid for it. Not in money. At least not yet. But you will. The question remains – how do you get that beautiful finished manuscript into the hands of people who understand your pain? Time for submissions. So, you spend money on mailings, contest entries, paper, ink, stamps, computer programs, and internet. You pay for a website. You purchase books on publishing and writing. You join writers' groups and attend workshops. How do you do this if you are not getting paid by this "hobby"? Of course, like the rest of us suffering writers, you use the money from your day job to pay for all of this. Why? Because it's your job? Because it's just a hobby? There are plenty of hobbies out there that cost money. If you drove race cars for a hobby, just imagine the cost! This is cheap compared to that. If you were into scrap-booking, it would cost you a fortune too. I've been to the craft stores – that stuff is expensive when it adds up. No more than what we do. Trust me!

You do it because it's not just a hobby. You write because you are a writer. You toil over those pages because it is something you love far more than the day job. Unfortunately, it doesn't pay very much when you are starting out. It's like opening your own business. There is a lot of start-up cost, and if you are lucky, it will take off, but in the meantime, be prepared to dump a lot of your income from your other job into it until you can make a profit. Of course making a profit means you have sold a book. Not just one book – but many books. Ask any published author and they will tell you it took them a long time to break even. To even be able to leave the day job before they could rely mainly on the income from selling their books as a living.

Next time someone tells you "it's just a hobby", laugh. You know the truth. They just do not understand the special relationship writers have with their WIPs. Continue to find other writers to hang out with, to talk to about your writing. Attend workshops and critique meetings. Do all those things that bring joy into your life because you are a writer, and like other writers I know, you need to be around people like you. You need to remember you are not in this alone. We all suffer from the misunderstandings of people in the rest of the world you do not hear these voices. Enjoy this "hobby", because one day, when the checks do start coming in, you will be the one laughing – all the way to the bank – because for them – their hobbies won't bring them a paycheck.

The Power of Rejection

As a writer, the one thing we all learn to handle is rejection. The power rejection has depends on us as individuals. Are you going to let a rejection keep you from going for your dream? Or are you going to learn from this rejection? This depends on each person. I am a firm believer that rejection has the power you give it. Words have power. The written word always has more power than the spoken word because you can read it again and again. So when you read and reread a rejection letter, it doesn't just hurt once, it hurts each time you read it.

My rejections. I have a more than my fair share of rejection letters. How did I handle those rejections? My first book I sent to an agent, who signed me up right away. I think they saw sucker written all over my letter. When they asked for money, I didn't know not to send it. I thought they were doing their job. After one year and no results, they wanted more money. I wanted my manuscript back. I hired a lawyer to get them back because the agent didn't want to give it back. Then the auspicious job of sending out my manuscript fell on my shoulders. I sent it out again and again. I kept a careful chart of who I mailed it to and what the result was. While I sent it out, I wrote another manuscript. Then I sent that one out too.

I kept getting rejections, but had no idea why. I made a decision after the first painful rejection. I would resend it the next day, no matter what. That way, I knew my manuscript was always out there. Then one day I got a letter from a very nice editor, Denise Little, who recommended I join a local critique group. I wrote back and asked her how to find one and she recommended Romance Writers of America. What a revelation! I joined a local chapter and started to learn what was wrong with that first manuscript.

Learning the craft was important to me in so many ways. The first thing I learned about my manuscript was that it needed POV, point of view. I was a head hopper. Everyone in the book had something to say and think. Far too confusing for my reader. So, I worked on the POV and resent my manuscript. Still rejected. Okay, what was the problem this time? Then I started attending workshops and conferences and learned about GMC – goal, motivation, and conflict. Once again, I started revising my manuscript and sending it out again. Some writers seem to write effortlessly – writing the perfect novel and getting published. Others seem to toil endlessly on their manuscripts because the process takes longer. It reminds of when I was in school. A fellow student seemed to have no problem getting straight As, while I had to study all the time. Learning the craft was just like when I was in school. In order to do well in school, I had to continue to learn. I had to try different methods until I found what worked for me. The same is true with my books. The stories are there. They never leave me. I have more stories than I know what to do with floating around in my brain. But, honing my craft so I can become published and share these stories with the world is a dream worth fighting for. A dream worth learning properly. Sometimes the true worth of reaching a dream is the process or path you take to reach it.

Instead of letting a rejection letter stop me from reaching my goal, I am determined to learn from my mistakes. What are you going to do with your rejection? Are you going to let it stop you from becoming published or are you going to learn from it and make your manuscript better? The power is in your hands. Or should I say "words".

Dialogue – I’ve got something to say

How many of you saw "The King's Speech"? What a wonderful movie with fantastic dialogue. One of my favorite lines is "Because I have a voice". When Lionel Logue is trying to get Bertie to agree to working with him and why it's important that he say what he wants, the soon-to-be-king blurts out "because I have a voice!" So gloriously spoken by Colin Firth as the future king of England.

We have a voice and we all have something to say. But we also say it in different ways. Think about your characters and how you depict them. What they say in the story is just as important as what they do. Many times it's the combination of what they say and do at the same time because sometimes the two can be conflicting. When your heroine pines for the hero but is afraid to speak to him, we get a sense of her character, just like if heroine seduces the hero, but claims to not really be interested in him. When we were growing up we were always told – actions speak louder than words. When it comes to writing – you have to build believable characters so the reader feels the character would truly say "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" or "Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?" If you have built characters that make the reader feel along with them, then it's not hard for us to see Rhett walk out the door after having laid his heart bare for Scarlet. Just like we can see Scarlet's development into a mature woman when she realizes she truly does love him to say ask him what she will do.

Do your characters ring true or are they saying things that you want them to say, but are against their nature?

Whenever I am writing a story, there comes a point when the characters speak to me. It's that voice inside your head that says "I wouldn't do that" or "I wouldn't say that". Sometimes it doesn't happen until later that night when I'm sleeping. I'll be peacefully dreaming when all of a sudden I hear that little voice trying to wake me and correct some bad dialogue. Dialogue I probably struggled to write. You know exactly what I'm talking about – you get to a scene – you can see it in your mind and you begin to write it. Unfortunately, you know what I am going to say – the scene just doesn't ring true, but it's what you WANT the character to do. So, you force the character to say and do what you want them to do. Then, you go to bed or off shopping or whatever else you do when you take a break from your writing. Suddenly that voice starts whispering in your ear. "Excuse me, remember me? I'm your hero? I want to talk to you about that scene."

At first you try to ignore it because you just slaved over that scene. Maybe it took you hours to write it and you really hate to cut it out when you worked so hard on it. So you ignore the voice. But this voice will not be ignored. After all – just like Bertie said – I have a voice! Your characters have voices and they demand to be heard. You gave them life so now that are living and breathing inside this world you created, you cannot just ignore them and make them be good when they don't want to be good. Or worse – you want them to do something bad and they cluck their tongues at you and say "Oh, no, I would NEVER do that!"

You hate when this happens. But just like your own children – once you bring them into this world, you cannot suddenly silence them. They have a voice and they want to be heard. So, if this happens, rewrite. Rewrite with all the love you give your own children. We all know that each novel we write is like a child to us. Do not ignore them. When we ignore our children, something bad always happens. The same is true with your books – if you ignore your characters, the book will not become what it's meant to become.

Now, let's address your book. It's your voice. The voice you want to be heard. When you write a book, you are putting your thoughts and feelings down on paper. Nothing is more powerful than when someone reads what you wrote and says "YES! I feel that way too!" This is the type of connection you want your readers to have to your writing! So, the moral or message I'm trying to get across is – let your voice out! Listen to what your inner voice says and let it out!